All around there is this scramble to preserve one's brain power, challenge memory, keep the grey matter active and in shape.
When the downslide began, I tried crosswords and Scrabble, Soduku, word puzzles and jumbled words, but the gradual melting down of memory seemed to continue despite all of it. So instead of raging and struggling to keep the brain waves sharp, I decided to go with the flow.
Suddenly, it doesn't matter that I cannot recall what I cooked for lunch yesterday. I just allow my hands to get busy in the kitchen without the benefit of my brain - and with a few muttered incantations (read expletives), some sprinkling of powders and pastes, and a good deal of rattling of dishes, a neither red nor green curry finds its way to the dining table. Everyone groans but it doesn't sound familiar to me - could I have heard the same sound yesterday - and the day before? Surely I would remember if it was worth remembering! As for the freezer that bursts at the seams with all those special dishes that have been saved for the "right" occasion or the return of the prodigal, let them languish - imagine the thrill when one of them finally experiences the warmth of the thaw!
What about the other advantages of a failing memory? It is so easy to slip into an absent minded haven where one can greet a friend or an enemy with equal warmth, leaving behind amazed glances but such a good feeling in the heart! Only last week, I am told, my neighbour snarled at me as my dog left its carbon footprints, or something like that, on the lamp post outside his gate, and today both the dog and I give a happy wag and the glare he was getting ready to throw our way turns into startled confusion and he looks away in alarm. Happiness stems from such unexpected moments!
A never ending source of entertainment, the television set, has acquired a totally new dimension now. Movies are seen and re-seen, enjoyed each time with as much delight as the first time around. And those friends and members of the family who love to go through their entire repertoire of jokes and reminiscences each time we meet, isn't it great to have an audience that can laugh as heartily as it did a week ago?
True, there are the frustrating moments - when you go back and forth a dozen times from the kitchen to the fridge, trying to recreate your actions and trigger the thought in hopes of recalling exactly what you're in search of. Or when you know that just a couple of days ago you washed and ironed the blouse that goes with the outfit you are half-dressed in, but try as you do, it has disappeared in a "clothes slide" or mysteriously taken on a forgotten hue so that, even though you have rifled through the contents of the closet a dozen times, it evades your eye and escapes into the dense black hole of cupboard space!
Eventually, when this happens often enough to become a part of the expected, you can make such moments work for you. Dare to be different - and if you keep on this side of the bizarre, you're safe - an interesting dresser, but not too weird!
What I enjoy most about a failing memory is the unfailing good feeling that it brings me. Where only a few years ago I'd sniffle with a deep sense of loss during romantic movies where flowers and flourishes and tender moments abound, now those distant moments in my own life are so long buried that there are no good ole days to think back to, no recapturing of that special moment, no nostalgia for what once was. Both highs and heartaches are over. There is only the here and now, and so tuned in am I to the humdrum lack of excitement that it spells happiness.
Cheryl Rao is a journalist based in India.